Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, serving as Acting Governor while Idaho Gov. Brad Little is out of state attending the Republican Governors Association conference, used her temporary powers to issue an executive order that prevents the state government, counties, or cities from enacting mask mandates in Idaho.
Acting without Little’s knowledge, McGeachin “issued an executive order banning mask mandates statewide among state political entities,” reported local media. She is Acting Governor while Little attends the RGA conference, an organization headed by anti-Trump Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. On Twitter, McGeachin wrote, “Today, as acting Governor of the State of Idaho, I signed an Executive Order to protect the rights and liberties of individuals and businesses by prohibiting the state and its political subdivisions – including public schools – from imposing mask mandates on our state.”
Today, as acting Governor of the State of Idaho, I signed an Executive Order to protect the rights and liberties of individuals and businesses by prohibiting the state and its political subdivisions — including public schools — from imposing mask mandates in our state. #idpol pic.twitter.com/Nmb6DX9v6X
— Janice McGeachin (@JaniceMcGeachin) May 27, 2021
While Little did not issue a statewide mask mandate during the COVID-19 pandemic, “some counties and cities have, as have schools.” McGeachin’s executive order effectively ends these mandates at the state level, including for public schools. Local media received a statement from Little’s office indicating that McGeachin drafted and signed this executive order without the governor’s knowledge or consent:
“Governor Little has been out of state this week collaborating with other Republican governors, and the Lt. Governor did not make Governor Little aware of her executive order ahead of time. He is expected to return to Idaho tonight. The Governor’s Office is reviewing the Lt. Governor’s executive order. Governor Little has never put in place a statewide mask mandate. Throughout the pandemic, Governor Little has been committed to protecting the health and safety of the people of Idaho and has emphasized the importance of Idahoans choosing to protect our neighbors and loved ones and keeping our economy and schools open. Idahoans value local control and the local approach to addressing important issues. An expanded statement from the Governor’s Office on the Lt. Governor’s executive order will be made available after a more thorough review of this executive action.”
“For those who feel at risk, then they should continue to wear (masks). But to force it on others I think is not right,” McGeachin told The Idaho Press. “I worked with some people on putting this together,” she continued. “That’s the authority that rests in the office, to have the authority to do these kinds of things.” She also revealed that she has served as acting governor “five or six times” and was only informed of Little’s decision to leave the state to attend the RGA conference “just a day or two ago.”
Still, McGeachin acknowledged that Little has the power to reverse the order when he returns to the state. “It’s possible,” McGeachin told local media, “but I am just going to remain hopeful that he sees the value in this.”